Master drummer Van Romaine (Steve Morse Band, Billy Joel, Enrique Iglesias, Blood, Sweat and Tears,…
I’m delighted to announce the release of ‘A Little Book Of Jazz’ on Pedigree Cuts. A special thanks to executive producer Elliot Ireland to believe in this collection of songs to celebrate the 81st birthday of Blue Note Records.
The album title refers to ‘The Real Book 5th Edition’ – which was an illegal fake book – a compilation of lead sheets of jazz standards, created by Berklee College of Music students in the 1970s. It has become the standard reference work for generations of jazz players and has influenced the performance and composition repertoire in the Jazz circles ever since. Including me – a former Berklee College of Music student – firmly falling into the spell of this real book – sold under the counter in Boston, MA.
The story of ‘A Little Book of Jazz’ is a long. It probably dates all the way back me playing my first ever Jazz standards with the help of some copied pages out of the ‘Real Book’. Moving on to study bass at the Vienna Conservatory jazz department and then Berklee College of Music in Boston playing ‘Real Book‘ standards was always part of the journey.
As long as I have played bass I have also written little riffs and tunes and over time they developed into tunes. Among many other things I found additional inspiration by bass artist extraordinaire Steve Swallow and his 1994 ‘Real Book’ album. Here is a bassist, bandleader and composer who presents his entire vision, not unlike the towering giant Jaco Pastorius of course – in a ‘quieter way’ perhaps.
In some of my Berklee College of Music classes we had to write short melodies, sketches and sometimes entire tunes in the style of a well known artists or styles (like modal Jazz, Blues, Jazz ballad, etc.) and I’ve kept all my musical doodlings from about 25 years ago (!).
In my writing on many of the Funkestra records – aside of them being more Funk than Jazz – I often tried to find new formulas to stir away from the ‘head – blowing – head’ type of ‘head’ arrangement (‘blowing’ refers to ‘blowing over the changes’, i.e. improvising of the form and chord progression) .
The collection of these songs is firmly doing the opposite, i.e. I’m deliberately sticking to the traditional way of playing ‘standards’ and the writings is based on small group playing – a rhythm section with two horns (sax and trumpet).
A few years back I wanted to give myself an outlet for my more traditional Jazz standard type writing (and playing) and created a side project alongside the Redtenbacher’s Funkestra. I called it ‘The Red Counts’. We’ve played various gigs with a collective of great players, including long-standing Funkestra members like drummer Mike Sturgis and trumpet player Sid Gauld – a lot of these gigs were ‘private functions’ – playing Jazz background music for Summer Parties, Christmas dues, etc. The perfect opportunity to slip in my fledgling compositions to try them out and to see if they could ‘pass’ among the other Real Book material without the party to stop:-) Some worked better than others but after several re-writes and tweaks I ended up with 11 songs which I thought were worth recording.
If you’d like to read more about how this project developed feel free to jump onto the website of THE RED COUNTS – which I set up to document some of my thoughts around the music, including the graphic designs by Blue Note designer Reid Miles and some other references to movies and books.
A BIG thank you to all the brilliant musicians on this album. I’m really grateful they shared their considerable talents with me and made my tunes come to life.
- Sid Gauld – trumpet, flugelhorn
- Simon Allen – saxophone (alto, tenor)
- Darren Williams – drums
- André Spang – piano
- Stefan Redtenbacher – bass
- Anthony Kerr – vibraphone
- Richard Milner – Hammond organ
Here is a tune-by-tune breakdown of the album tracks. They are not in sequence order as I wrote about them as the thoughts trickled in.
11 White T
A ‘modal’ composition influenced by tunes like ‘Little Sunflower’ by Freddie Hubbard and ‘Maiden Voyage’ by Herbie Hancock.
5 Save My Skin
A composition nodding to the unique pianist and composer Horace Silver – echoes of songs like ‘Song For My Father’, ‘The Jodie Grind’ and ‘Liberated Brother’ are ringing through in the distance.
Rudy Van Gelder is one of the most heralded sound engineers of the last century, closely associated with the legendary Blue Note label for which he recorded the most noted titans in Jazz like John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock & co. Originally the recording sessions were conducting in his parents living room in the wee hours of the morning when the musicians would come to Hoboken, New Jersey after their gigs in the Big Apple to lay down their latest work. The atmosphere of these circumstances have been time-stamped into Rudy Van Gelder’s classic recordings – a warm sound with a relaxed feeling. The composition RVG is a tribute not only to the great of this area but also to the legendary engineer who captured it all.
Charlie Parker (‘Bird’) was in the habit to take chord structures of well know tunes of the time and create his own melodies (heads) for them. Tunes like ‘How High The Moon’ became ‘Ornithology’ or Gershwin’s ‘I’ve Got Rhythm’ became ‘Anthropology’. The chord structure and form of ‘I’ve Got Rhythm’ is a standard vehicle for Jazz improvisation. Quantonlogy hints not only on Bird’s syntax when titling his songs but also uses the chord progression of ‘I’ve got Rhythm’ as the basis for this new composition featuring the drums in the breakdown.
Any standard Jazz performance will incorporate a ‘Jazz Ballad’ – a slow tempo introspective piece of music to showcase the more lyrical side of melody and solo improvisation. Remembrance feat. a Hammond organ and steps into this tradition of performing a heartfelt and somewhat romantic lament in a jazz setting.
Chet Baker was a unique trumpeter and vocalist. The ‘Prince of Cool’ has recorded evocative repertoire and managed to stamped his personality and impressions on classic standards like ‘I Fall in Love Too Easily’, ‘My Funny Valentine’ and ‘You Don’t Know What Love is’. Perhaps is nodding towards the ‘Prince of Cool’ with a masterful flugelhorn performance by Sid Gauld as well as conjuring the feeling of Miles Davis soundtrack to ‘Ascenseur pour l’échafaud’ recorded in Paris in 1957.
7 The Phanteon of Greats
Is a phrase coined by philosopher Will Durant who wrote ‘The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time’ amongst many other pivotal works. The Pantheon of Greats is based on the standard staple of any self-respected Jazz musician – 12 bar major Blues, in this version with some twists to gently break away from the standard 12 bar format and key of F (or Bb) within this blistering uptempo swing setting.
2 Monte Bianco
This Calypso influenced tune has a very upbeat feel to it, clearly influenced by compositions like ’St. Thomas’ (a typical Jazz standard) by Sonny Rollins and ‘My Little Suede Shoes’ by Charlie Parker and ‘Poinciana’ by pianist Ahmad Jamal.
3 F Like in Sam
Unlike The Pantheon of Greats this medium Swing Blues is in the standard key of F and features a Blues head influenced by tunes like ‘Billlie’s Bounce’ by Charlie Parker, ‘Blue Monk’ and ‘Straight No Chaster’ by Thelonius Monk.
6 211 Park Drive
This medium swing tune is influenced by Benny Golson’s ‘Killer Joe’, Duke Ellington’s ‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore’ and Wes Montgomery’s ‘West Coast Blues’ in a very loose sense.
10 August Blues
Darker and slower in character then the other tracks August Blues is founded on a slow D minor Blues. Influenced by tunes like ‘Equinox’ by John Coltrane or a slow rendition of ‘Birk’s Works’ by Dizzy Gillespie.
Written, arranged and produced by Stefan Redtenbacher
Executive Producer Elliot Ireland
Mixed by Alex Rizzu
Mastered by Alex Gordon at Abbey Road Studios
Photo by Rob Blackham
Graphic design by Stefan Redtenbacher
All tunes published by Pedigree Cuts Ltd
Catalogue Number PDS051
Under exclusive license from Pedigree Cuts. All rights reserved.